No fear to lend an ear

According to the World Health Organization, depressive disorders will be the leading cause of the global burden of disease by 2030.

This was one of those statements which hit me with a great big sledgehammer in the chest.  I found it shocking. I felt the heaviness of infinite sadness settle inside me.

The very same day my big boy came home with a writing competition about changing the world.  I told him this fact I’d read, and I could see him visibly changed by hearing it, as I had been.  He decided to look into it.  A hefty ask for an 11-year old, but unfortunately that’s the tough old world our “tween’s” are living in these days.

Who might get depression? we asked ourselves. “Someone who doesn’t get 300 likes on their selfie,” he said. “A mother stuck at home with no kids to care for anymore and no life,” I said. “Someone who works too hard like Dad,” he said.  I asked, “What about your sister when she goes to high school?” and he nodded looking worried. “My brother could have been depressed when that person in his class was being mean all the time,” he said. “Nanny?” I asked. He nodded, not knowing a reason why his loving nanny might get depression, but knowing that depression picks on anyone the black beast chooses.

What does depression look like? we wondered. “It might look like a bully” he said, “who is covering up his sadness by being a bully.”  I asked, “What about kids who don’t eat, or eat too much?” and he nodded with an assuredness which frightened me.depression “Or people who drink too much alcohol or take drugs,” he added. “What about quiet people?” “What about old people?” “People who’ve come back from war?” “People who are too busy,” or “people who are not busy at all.”  And then, “What about suicide mum?” I nodded. Yes, depression can look like suicide. How sad, sad, sad that this plague currently thrives in the world of the young. “Or maybe it’s someone who seems bright and happy on the outside and you just can’t tell at all,” I tried.  And he agreed. “That’s pretty hard, that one,” we decided.

How can you fix depression? we now really wanted to know. He was touched by this  policeman’s story… Kevin Briggs worked as a highway patrol officer on the Golden Gate Bridge for most of his career. When it was built in 1937, this majestic San Francisco bridge was deemed by the chief engineer Joseph Strauss to be “practically suicide-proof – suicide from the bridge is neither practical nor probable”. From then, to now, there have been over 1600 suicide’s and the number is relentlessly growing.  The lucky one to two per cent of people who survived their jump, knew the second they let go that they had made a mistake and they wanted to live.  Kevin Briggs came in contact with hundreds of suicidal people on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Without any training in mental health or suicide when he began, Briggs felt all he could do was simply be there next to the people standing on the precipice, and listen to them talk. For as long as it took, he would stand there and listen – he mightn’t be trained, but any old person can listen, so he did.   Of all he came in contact with, Briggs saved all of those hundreds of people attempting suicide because he listened, except two.  Hundreds of people are still in this world, and eternally grateful to Kevin Briggs for listening that day.  It turns out they wanted to live after all.  That their depression actually could be healed. And it started with someone lending an ear.

“But that’s not that hard to do, is it?” asked my son.

 

Do you think we can something to avoid the 2030 depression epidemic?  How can we help or heal individuals? 

Lifeline 13 11 14

Black Dog – www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

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Missing Mother

Breaking News:  Reports of a possible missing person. 

A stay-at-home mother from Sydney’s Insular Peninsula appears to have disappeared. The missing mother is known as a woman who quietly and boringly got on with her life as a housewife and children’s Uber driver.  She was not known as social, being as she was mostly stuck in the kitchen and kitchen’s do not talk.  Nor was she known as adventurous – going to Coles was a big day out – and those close to her say that she likely may, or may not have, left of her own accord.

The missing mother was released from her cage – err, household, last Thursday.   She was sighted at Sydney Airport with a woman said to be an old friend from school.  The old friend was allegedly feeding the poor unsuspecting missing mother champagne at 8.30am.  It is not known if this friend is an accomplice, as she is also usually a mother at home, or if she is a suspect.

The missing mother and her friend were then seen at Auckland Airport, with yet another friend, who is a known policewoman, leaving the airport with a bottle of Tequila.  Kiwi’s, cops and tequila – it is not looking good.

It is believed the missing mother was planning to attend a wedding.  The word “Chenery” was overheard by witnesses on numerous occasions – detectives suspect this might be secret code for ‘Brewery’, which was the possible wedding venue, or it could be the bride’s name.  Despite the alleged wedding being full of cops and lawyers, detectives are not holding out much hope that law enforcement would prevail. They know their own kind too well.

Local fisherman, next to the wedding location, believe they spotted the missing mother, although personality descriptions do not match accurately.

mohawk-sideways-copy
Facial composite of the missing mother

  The missing mother’s family in Sydney said it would be very unlikely to be the same woman if she was seen dancing all night long and up on the stage pretending to be Salt n’ Peppa to the popular 80s song “Push It”.  The family also refute claims that the mother would put a fluorescent pink mohawk on sideways for something called a “photobooth”, accidentally or not. 

Nor would she ever be seen singing into love hearts on sticks, somewhat like a microphone, which the bride had painstakingly decorated her wedding venue with. Her husband said it was always, always, a wooden spoon or kitchen implement she sang into.  

There have been suspected sightings of the missing mother back in Sydney.  But the woman singing Whitney Houston while she baked, and dancing to Salt n’ Pepper while she vacuumed, did not resemble at all the drab woman who once stood in that apron in that spot, so those claims have been dismissed.  Other reports say this same all-singing-dancing  woman did not have a nightly glass of patience – err, wine – as the missing mother used too.  Justifications along the lines of a detox of gin,  tequila and other unremembered beverages, have also been dismissed.

The search continues.

 

Practising Kindness. Kind of.

My late rising New Year’s resolution is kindness. Be kind, show kindness, kind, kind, kind.

It’s everywhere – the new catch phrase to counteract narcissism generated in our age of the selfie.  Me me me it’s all about me, verses Be kind to one another. I should have been an anthropologist or psychologist instead of a mother.  (Same thing, I hear you say? Need one as a mother, I hear you say?)

This woman is fabulous – take the 10 minutes to watch Orlay Wahba speak on kindness, it will change your life.  http://blog.ted.com/the-magic-of-kindness-orly-wahba-at-ted2013/  She nails why kindness is essential and exactly how it makes the world a better place.

So I’m going to be kind. I’ve already started.

I was really kind yesterday when my toddler screamed his way out of swim school, all the way to the car, screamed when I asked him to get in the car, then screamed about me locking him out of the car (never leave a child unattended inside a car), then continued his little screaming argument all the way home.

He is still alive. See? Kindness.

Part of kindness is that it brings you to noticing others. For example, like last night.  My husband must have been practising kindness because when he was putting the rubbish bins out, he noticed the next-door neighbour nicking our greens bin from the verge.  “Hey, isn’t that ours?” came kindly out of Happy Husband’s mouth, to which Naughty Neighbour replied, “oh just taking it to put our palm fronds in”.  Happy Husband practiced further kindness by not saying anything more – perhaps because his mouth hung open in disbelief but hey, the bin was theirs.  

Currently, I am practising kindness with great fervour. Along with noticing, being kind also generates gratitude.  As I write this I am looking out my window at the pool company (here is a description of them), draining thousands of litres of water-slash-money down the plughole, and jackhammering big chunks out of the concrete walls of our brand new pool.  But hey – I am super grateful that we had the pool for the kids for Christmas, because we can’t afford to eat anymore let alone buy something as frivolous as Christmas presents.  And I am tremendously grateful to the actual people who work for the pool company, because now when I turn on the news Donald Trump really truly looks like a super nice guy to me. Really, he does incredibly honourable work, don’t you think?    

So, after a successful week of practising great kindness, I’m going to celebrate. Here is a selfie of me with my big glass of kindness to myself. But we all know it’s not all about me…

woman-with-big-glass-of-wine

   

 

   

Tales of a Poolside Crime

Once upon a time there was a family who was really so very excitably excited, because they were putting in a pool!  The kids were beside themselves – the boys began kissing their future “guns” developed by swim practice, and the little girl with big plans to be a synchronised swimmer just like the Olympians (minus the snot stoppers, apparently). This pool was their Christmas present. The whole family couldn’t believe such an amazing incredible luxury was going to be theirs.

The responsible adults in the house (Dad, and Mum on a good day) met with another responsible adult from the pool company (who was suuuuper responsible because he was the owner).  Mr Pool Company Owner, who looked just exactly like a really kind grandfather, said he ran the business with his family, it had always been in the family for a long long time, and they loved to do top quality work. This was very important to Dad because he is an extra-picky engineer and loves good quality work and straight lines.  Mum’s no good at straight lines but she is right into her phone and she found it strange that Mr Pool Company Owner kept hitting the ignore button on his phone when it rang.

The day finally came.  The Foreman arrived, with some other people who loved fluorescent yellow as well, and Foreman got to work with the spray can. Foreman was very adept with that spray can and had possibly implemented some self-driven extra homework during his apprenticeship, on suburban trains.  But I digress.

A couple of days later in came a big digger. Children were going into apoplexy about it, and it was as hard to get them to school as it is to extract water from a volcano. When they came home there was the most awesome sight: A pool sized hole in our backyard! This was really going to happen!

Every day the children stood at the back door waiting for more fluorescent yellow people to arrive.  Soon Mum and Dad joined them at that window. And every day, no one turned up at their giant hole in the ground.

The sun shone. It was beautiful spring weather. And the hole began to collapse.

The sun shone. And no yellow shirts turned up.

More of the hole collapsed. pool

Mum was starting to feel decidedly irresponsible. So she called the Graffiti Sniper (being unable to think of him as Foreman anymore). Every day. And she called the office, every day. And she emailed the office, every day.

And Not. One. Person. Ever. Rang. Her. Back.

And more of the hole collapsed.

And the sun shone on.

Mum suddenly realised that this grandfatherly looking bloke was not a grandfatherly person at all. He was a Nasty Nasty Pool Crook. He did not care about family nor quality work. He especially wasn’t caring about her family who were by now really seriously down in the dumps, especially because their garden had become a very dangerous place for children.

Dad had read the pool contract before signing it (engineers do that sort of thing), and it had all these conditions in it which he considered extreme.

Like – ‘you’ll pay for any collapses’ – even though there was no conceivable reason we could see as to why they didn’t continue to build the pool after they’d dug the hole. And, ‘if contractors can’t be found to do the work (anywhere? There is no man with a shovel to dig out the dirt that has collapsed anywhere in NSW?) and it all runs over time, well bad luck you Client, you pay for those repercussions too’.  And, ‘those down payments you made? BWUHAHAHAHAHA – They’re aaalllll ours.” evil-trump-donald

Nasty Nasty Pool Crook emailed to confirm: “Yes you stupid overexcited family, we will be enforcing all of these contractual obligations. Even though you have done nothing wrong and we have done no work, we will still have all of your money and leave you with a destroyed backyard. Kind regards.”

I’d like to say this story will be continued in a little ‘Tales of a Poolside Crime’ series.  But do you hold out any hopes?

A Wise Man and a Bright Star

The day began with the usual unsatisfying vomit; a dribble of bile in the cup of my hand and some in the loo. Not even Christmas Day, with all its miracles, could offer up a reprieve.

I wandered out of our guest bedroom to see a quartet of teenage cousins slothing out of theirs.  Four kids would be nice, I think.

If I was the Virgin Mary.

We all assembled around my aunt and uncle’s Christmas tree in their Southern Highlands loungeroom. The surrounding window’s shone in a beauty of a day – one worthy of new beginnings.

I took the chance, during a brief moment of hush: “We’re pregnant!”

There was teary, surprised giggling all round. Except from my uncle Laurie, who disappeared. What? All my life I’d heard, “You’d make beautiful babies with him”. And now that I am, he walks out?

This man, Laurie Curley, was a colourful character with many shades of intensity – from outbursts of extreme emotion, to the deepest of poetry, to being the life of the party, crackling with hilarious and inspiring stories. On this day, I didn’t know what sort of reaction this exit meant.

After a time, he walked back in. He sat next to me silently – possibly the only moment he’d ever been soft and quiet in his life. He opened a wee black velvet box, revealing a diamond ring, shaped like hands in prayer, and with tears, said: “I have had this for you, for that baby in there, for a long time. Congratulations my darling.”

That baby got out of there eight months later and was the precious miracle that Christmas day had indicated he would be. Oliver. Little boy of peace. He lived up to his name from the moment he lay, with a head shaped like a butternut squash, perfect in my arms.

But with such deep peace, it would transpire, came crippling shyness and uncertainty for this boy. Social situations were debilitating. I believed I had the only toddler in the world who was frightened to death of a playground.

We tried everything to make life seem a little less scary for Oliver.  We thought we were doing well, until the preschool teachers suggested he go into a Child Anxiety Program. We never got there.

He started school, knowing no one. He looked up that day, took a shallow breath and was the bravest person I’ve ever known. I cried: Not because I was losing a child but because I’d gained a stronger one.

But again, the school teachers suggested our little boy go back to that Program. Rather than fixing anxiety, the recommendation generated more. We said no thanks.

A few years later, as Oliver struggled along, special uncle Laurie passed away swiftly from a violent and hideous fight with cancer. We went to see him toward the end. He still found a slice of strength to talk farts with our kids, making them giggle, as always, before collapsing into bed with his morphine. Our children were quiet as we drive home from that visit in the Southern Highlands.

There are some who have completed their work in life earlier than others, and Laurie’s was certainly a life well lived. Once more my husband and I defied popular opinion and took our children to farewell their influential uncle. Oliver lead his siblings in sprinkling the coffin with roses and I could hear Laurie as their flowers flourished around him: “See? Don’t you listen to them, my darlings – you do what you want – anything you want”. It was a saying I’d heard many times over the course of my life. A saying Laurie breathed in and out everyday, with flamboyance and verve.

Oliver’s confidence and friendships began to grow with age. But then one by one, the friends drifted away to other schools and towns. At the start of this year, his little brother whispered, “Mum, Oliver sat by himself at lunch time today”. And then every day, and throughout the year.

As Christmas 2016 approached, Oliver asked about Laurie, three years in Heaven by now.  “Mum, can you tell me that story where uncle Loz didn’t go to the party, but walked around the corner and fixed up the poor kids’ house?”  It was the story which marked the beginning of the charity, Qantas Cabin Crew Team, for which Laurie received an OAM.

A few days later Oliver came home saying he had made a speech at school about an inspiring leader in history. I was thinking the teachers meant the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai. Oliver had chosen Laurie.

It turned out that speech was to the Principal and a panel of the school’s senior teachers.

Later that week, that Principal chose our little boy of peace as a Primary School Leader.

“You really can do anything you want, my darling.”

wiseman-bright-star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ode to the Moon

My husband walks in, a deadly sombre look covering his face.“The astronomer, he’s….well, he’s pretty serious. Eccentric, maybe. The telescopes are worth over a million dollars each!”

He shakes his head. “The kids…. I don’t know….”

Now he looks sad, disappointed.

My heart folds for him.  He’d booked this trip for us as a big surprise. He’d been working away for the last two years, and striving to keep a closeness within our family had been all-consuming for that whole time.  Now he’s back we want to relax, be normal, not fret about making every moment count.   This trip is meant to be the fun stuff that normal families do – a holiday together.  But I can see that right now all his expectations are being slowly and silently squashed.

I couldn’t let that happen. “They’ll be fine,” I assure him, feeling less than certain, and bundle him out the door of our little wooden Blue Mountains cottage.

As he goes about unpacking a years’ worth of stuff for our three day trip, I call the troops into the bedroom. “Now you guys, Dr Hassan is a very serious man,” I tell my four rowdy children who are busting with excitement that we’re on holiday.

“Mum, it’s ha-sin.  As in, haha I sinned, as in sin, you know? D’ya geddit?” laughs my already smarter than me seven year old, jumping on the bed.  His sister joins him.

“Ok ok, I geddit, thank you for clarifying – are you two kangaroo’s? No, sit down.  So, Dr Ha-sin, he is a very serious man. He’s a very, very clever man.  In fact, he is so clever, that that doesn’t leave much room for being funny and joking around.  His brain is full of clever, but no room left for joking. So we have to be serious too.  Do you understand?”  They all look at me, smiles and giggling gone, nodding their heads, eyes sombre.

The eldest, standing tall and serious, hands clasped behind his back like a mini soldier, is nodding. Whilst invisibly grabbing a pillow which he thwacks over his brother’s head, and it’s on.

Maybe my husband’s right.

“Guys!  Dr Hassan is waiting to meet you.  Can you be serious?  Because if you can’t you miss out on the moon.  And icecream for desert.”

Suddenly they sit still. Like the perfect children.

I herd them outside, corralling them in between my arms.

His old jeans and flannel shirt are cinched in with a tan belt, half way between his nipples and belly button.  He is twitching a bit. Later he will tell us he is 53 years old.  His skin looks smoothed by an expensive face cream.

Our children dutifully shake his hand and stand quietly. After a suitable amount of time they melt away.  I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Oh no,” says Hassan, eyes wide, hand over his mouth. “Did…I don’t know…Did Julian tell you….what ages are the children? The telescopes, they’re very expensive….sensitive, very sensitive….  children, they just want to touch it…”

“OLIVER DONT THROW THE BALL NEAR THE CAR IT’S BRAND NEW!!!” yells my husband as he catches the rugby ball millimetres before it smashes full pelt into Hassan’s front windscreen.

I scoop them swiftly back inside mumbling apology.  

They sit silently inside on the lounge, looking at the ground, Molly looking worriedly at the freezer and icecream inside. 

I return back outside to my husband to make a new plan.

“…My mother, she just had a stroke,” Hassan is telling my husband. “Such a proud woman. Dementia…. I think it is the worst way to go. She used to be impeccably made up every day, now…”

“Oh I’m sorry,” I say. “You didn’t have to come…”

He waves it off. “I’m very unorganised because of it,” he stutters, looking nervously around at the ground and buildings. “Just driven three hours…”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” automatically comes out of my mouth.

“Do we have any?” asks my logical husband.  Of course we don’t.  We’ve just come out of the car for three hours ourselves and I’d brought all the food the kids would need and forgotten the tea and coffee for us.

“Yes, yes I would. I will get my coffee,” he says suddenly clearly and assuredly.

I race inside ahead of him, picking up bras, hiding the wine bottles and closing the doors of rooms where the beds have been dismantled already by children.  I stand in front of my meek children and glare at them, my finger to my lips as I hear Hassan enter.

He helps himself, seeming to know the kitchen better than we do. “I’m not allowed in here unless I’m invited which you did of course,” he says.

“What’s that?” says Molly, sticking her nose almost in his cafetier as 4 year-old curiosity gets the better of her.

“It’s Arab coffee, you can’t have it,” he says, whipping it away. “It’s not good for children.”

She goes back to her spot next to her brothers on the lounge.

“Children,” says Dr Hassan standing next to the bench.  “Tonight we are going to look into some big telescopes to see the moon, and we might even see Saturn…”

“Saturn, wow!” says Oliver, who has just been learning about it in year three at school.

“But, children, the telescopes cost more than a house – more than a million dollars,” he says, his eyes twitching about everywhere but on the children.

“Make a toilet roll holder with your hands,” says, demonstrating.   They all copy obediently. 

I watch as they take him very seriously, while he describes to them how to place one eye into the toilet roll without using your hands. He describes how the toilet roll will show them something that is many light years away. “If I stood on the giant star Eta Carina and clapped, you wouldn’t see it for another 50 years.”  It is the beginning of my own understanding, which will grow as the weekend passes, of many things that school could never make sink in.

I wonder if he has his own children, now I see this new side to him. No wedding ring.

“Are those glasses multifocal?” he says suddenly, squinting in close to Molly. “Oh no, uh oh, umm, yes, that’s not going to work…” he stutters again, looking at Molly’s feet.

“We’ll put different shoes on her,” says Phil, mouthing at me “the flashing lights on her shoes”.

“Umm, we don’t have any others,” I say, feeling like the dud mother. “She can go in her socks.”

“No, I’m not doing socks again, no, no socks,” says Dr Hassan, shaking his head as if I said she was going to take her cask wine up with her to look at his giant star.  “No.  Don’t worry, we’ll work it out.  It’s just the light, your eyes won’t work with that flashing blue light, we can only have red light. Yes, red light. Oh,” he says flinching violently as they flash again, as if he’s been struck by a sword. “Oh dear, silly me, I’m going to have a fit… I have epilepsy…”

Again, I quickly sheppard my daughter away.

After while I hear Phil saying goodbye and the door close. “He said we might be able to see Saturn!” he says excitedly as he comes back in. “We have to be ready just after sunset.” His eyes are glowing with expectation. “I can’t wait for the boys to see it with us.  It’s very small up there so we’ll probably need to go up a couple at a time.” 

We busy ourselves with getting the kids down for a nap so they will be fine to stay up late. I squeeze in a glass of wine, looking out at the bushscape, trying to relax into our holiday as the warm sun seeps into my bones.

Half an hour later I’m racing us through dinner, and just as I plop the fourth child into the bath water there is a knock at the door.

“Come now, Saturn is visible.”

Molly and I wait, for twenty minutes. My leg is doing that nervous bouncing thing as I wonder how my boys are behaving. Is seven year old Benjamin being cheeky? I wonder if they can see Saturn, if it is everything Phil hoped it would be for us. If Dr Hassan is surviving.

Then, the door bursts open.

“We saw Saturn, we saw the rings, we saw the MOON! You should see the telescopes mum! I saw the lunar lander from the Apollo 11! It’s so awesome!” the three of them yell excitedly over one another, my husband suddenly 7 and 9 years old like his sons in his enthusiasm.

“Go, quick, I don’t want you to miss a thing!” he says, bundling Molly and I out the door.

We pick our way up the little path between the cottage and the observatory under the red light.  We enter quiet as thieves through the observatory door and up the narrow, steep wooden staircase onto the rooftop.  In the shadows I can see four enormous telescopes.  They don’t even look like telescopes.

Dr Hassan covers Molly’s shoes with electrical tape to try and stop the flashing.  And despite his flinching every time she flashes, he is a different person up here. Confident. Explaining things clearly to us, with passion – such passion!

Molly goes first.

“Wow! It’s so pretty! Wow!” she says, over and over again. Oh my heart, my little girl is seeing real magic.

Dr Hassan mumbles something, looking at her. I glance at him questioningly, intent that my daughter do nothing wrong so she can continue her experience.

“It means bless her, in Omani,” he says, smiling at her as I am.

Then it’s my turn.  “No, you’re toilet rolling,” Dr Hassan says to me. “Can I help you?” I nod, and he ever-so gently adjusts my head into position.  My eye focuses down the black tube, through the long tunnel of light years, and onto a small oval of the most brilliant light I’ve ever seen. No man could make such light.  It has red and pink glinting around the outer edges, and I see the rings – I can see the rings of Saturn!  This is unbelievable.  I want to look at it forever, I try and come away a few times to give my little girl another go, but am drawn back to look at this magic again and again. “Wow!” I can hear repeatedly coming out of my mouth. There seems to be no other word for it.

“Ok, let’s see the moon now,” says Dr Hassan assuredly, finally managing to unglue me from the enchantment.

He flinches and grasps his back, as he moves the telescope eye piece into focus. “Oh, I have MS – a result of an accident when I was a Naval medical officer – big metal hatchet came down on my back,” he says, working away at the complex machinery in front of him. “Urgh, I need to up my pain relief.”  He fiddles around at his waist in the dark.

“Can you lift…” he asks.

“Of course, please, don’t hurt yourself,” I implore.  He seems so vulnerable.

I place Molly gently on the chair, trying not to make her shoes flash. She puts her eye perfectly up to the eye piece, and says again, “Wow! Mum, is this the moon?”

“Yes darling.  What does it look like?”

“Mum, it’s so pretty, it’s got big holes in it, but it’s still so pretty.  It doesn’t twinkle like the Satty.  Wow.”

I’m itching to look too.

“Wow, mum,” she says, completely awestruck.

Finally, she gives me a turn.

And I find I got it wrong.  There is a light more brilliant than Saturn, and that is our moon. It’s solidly luminous, the brightest, most radiant clear white you can imagine, more incandescent than the best quality diamond. I will never think of moonlight in the same way again. Now, it is super natural, a most amazing gift. I understand it is healing to this man who appears in so much pain; I know why his stutter and nervousness leaves when he is close with it like this.452196-moon-flickr

After what feels like hours of looking at stars and nebula and globular clusters and learning so much about this amazing universe we reside minutely in, my Molly gets tired as she’s been up many hours past her normal bedtime.  So I have to hand this experience of magic back over to my husband and older boys.

They are up there so long that I fall asleep myself waiting for them. It is a deep, peaceful sleep, unlike which I’ve had in a long time, my worries insignificant under the magnificence I’ve just experienced.

The next morning we all sit around our holiday croissant breakfast chattering over the top of each other excitedly about what we saw.  And it continues for the rest of the day as we traipse all over the Blue Mountains.

But by the end of the day we have four miserably tired children on our hands.

“Hello, can I come and work on the television so we can do the live vision?” Dr Hassan has landed on our doorstep before we’re even out of the car.

Oh doom, I think, as I survey my grissling, fighting children. I’ll keep them trapped in the car til he’s gone.

“I’ll wait til you get the children out,” he says.

With gritted teeth we all go inside.

I placate the kids with milk and any other treats and promises I could dream up while my husband offers Dr Hassan a drink. “How is your mum today?” I ask.

He looks at me, still. Not saying anything.  He shakes his head, tears welling in his eyes, then turns away.

I feel terrible I have asked and upset him.

But I will soon feel worse.

“What is he doing here anyway?” says Molly, looking at him grumpily, while Oliver lets off one of the loudest farts I’ve ever heard and Benjamin loses it because it was on his leg.

“She’s a wild one that one,” he says, looking at Molly.

He settles into the lounge to chat.  I think he’s lonely. Phil asks him about who owns the telescopes. And he starts to talk. He explains that Nasa, the Sultan of Oman, and Julian, a cosmetic dentist who owns the cottage, own them.  He tells us he travels all over the world, but he hates going back to Oman.  He doesn’t agree with the treatment of women, and he feels very uncomfortable with all the attention he gets in Oman. “I don’t like being called Prince,” he mouths to us adults. Hi dying mother is a queen. She married an Englishman from Devon, and they lived in Australia. I make my own connection about his ideas on the treatment of women.

An hour passes and he has stopped stuttering, even though its daylight and we are nowhere near his confidence giving work.  I start to relax myself, seeing that our kids seemed to have settled down after the earlier squawking.

He says he doesn’t like working with the Arabs who can afford telescopes. “It becomes all about P E N I S size, you know, mine is 16 inches, well mine is 27…” All the adults laugh together.

“I have to commend you on your children,” he says, suddenly serious again. “I never give as much of my time and experience usually. And your reaction,” he looks at my husband, “when you saw the Apollo 11… that has to be one of the highlights of my career,” he smiles at us, warmly, like an old friend. “But your children are just lovely.”  He looks at each of them fondly. “I will remember them.”

I smile with love at my husband.  Our first foray back into normal family life has been a resounding success. 

Suddenly our 7 year old jumps bolt upright on the lounge, pointing at Dr Hassan:  “PENIS!!  He’s a PRINCE and he said PENIS!!!” he screams at the top of his voice.

Ageing Disgracefully

Hair

Remember these?

troll
Felicity having a good hair day

Well, this was me as I hit my 21st year (times two) of life. 

When the grey’s popped up in my mouse brown hair, I thought blond highlights would be a good idea to blend them seamlessly away.  Beginning with just a little blond, I found myself a year later unsuspectingly sporting Marilyn Monroe bleached everything. Consequently, this turned what was supposed to be a low maintenance do, into hair of Kim Kardashian-mega-maintenance proportions, as I tried to keep on top of dark roots rearing their ugly heads every 0.00003 seconds. And, because hair goes limp along with everything else as you age, I had also been blow drying my golden locks – to near extinction. 

A kind hairdressery friend told me I was no longer allowed to blow dry and that dark was less damaging than Marilyn-blond. So, dark I go.  But now I have the old grey’s back partying front and centre forehead. So I decided to whack in a quick home box dye to touch them up between hair dresser visits. There is a problem in the translation though: Box-speak for dark brown is black. Coupled with my dead straight (and no-blow-dry-limp) hair, someone asked me which part of Asia I was from the other day.

Skin

In my 20’s I was a beauty editor. This meant CUPBOARDS and GARAGES and PUBLIC HALLS full of all the world’s most expensive creams, hair stuff, make ups, fragrances – Chanel, Dior, La Prairie, Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, MAC and so on were coming out of my earholes. Now that I have skin those anti-aging creams would love to get their free radical fighting mitts on, I can afford Olay from Coles.

One day I was bemoaning this situation with a friend who’d experienced the same beauty industry gluttony and had gone back to work as a beauty therapist just to keep her supplies going. She recommended Vitamin C powder – once a day, slap it on and voila, 21 again. Then we got interrupted, but that was fine, I had all the essential information.  So home I go via the health food shop to pick up some Vitamin C powder. 

Day 1 I rub the gritty stuff all over my mug. I feel it tingling (ok, well, maybe stinging) and think yippee, it’s working!  Luckily that day I did not need to alight the car to collect my kids so no one else saw me except for them and their thousand questions about the white crumbs falling off my face.

Day 2 and I decide to dissolve the powder in a little water after looking up a recipe online. I smother my face in the syrup and enjoy more tingling of skin. A while later once it’s dried, I put my moisturiser over the top then foundation and go off out into the world. A while later than that, standing amidst about 5000 people, I rub my jawline, and see a shower of what looks like sand. But is in fact vitamin c granules mixed with foundation. 

sandface
“Ah! I look like a sand sculpture!”

Day 3 and I manage to dissolve the powder to nothing, slather it on my skin, do cream, do foundation and check for sandpaper-like appearance of face. There is none.  Pop out into the world amidst about 7000 people, and someone asks: “Why do you look orange?”     

Weightwatchers

What kind of mathematical person thought this idea up? I mean – 4 points for a glass of wine?  It certainly wasn’t a mother.

Yes, I have joined up to shed the kilo’s that hung around after the baby no longer did.  I am absolutely certain now that the weight intends to stay forever like a bad tenant and without some concerted effort in years to come it’s going to be much more and nigh impossible to be rid of. 

So on day two of Watching my Weighters, I went to the gym and proudly (perhaps smugly) added into my WW app the hour of high intensity interval training (yes, it hurts as much as it sounds), setting the intensity level at “High, cannot talk or sing” (because I often sing when I’m in a gym class). I earned 10 points – woohoo!  But wait – I don’t get to eat those 10 points – those 10 points go yippee and bye bye suckeeerrrr disappearing off into the ether with an evil laugh. Now I have to eat no-point-air for the rest of the day.

But there’s more.  Did you know, when you’re doing Weight Watchers and watching those points like you used to watch the sausages cook, that everywhere you go – shops, kindy drop off, afterschool sport, library, public toilets – everywhere, it’s everywhere I’m telling you, someone is cooking bacon?

How’s your ageing disgracefully faring?